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Real Housewives

Filtering by Tag: danbury federal correctional institution

RHONJ Season 7 Premiere - Jingle Bells and Prison Cells

Glenn Rowley

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Jersey is back! After what seems like a million years away, it's finally time for Season 7 of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Teresa is home from prison, Melissa is becoming a modern woman and Jacqueline is back as a full-time Housewife. Plus, newbies Dolores and Siggy join the show! Read on for my full recap of the season premiere we've all been waiting for...

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The premiere starts in the early hours of December 23, 2015, the day Teresa Giudice was released from Danbury Federal Correctional Institution. As flashbacks of past seasons play on the screen, Teresa's long nightmare is finally over  After making the long-awaited drive back to her home in Franklin Lakes, Tre walks through door and just as we hear Joe Giudice say "Hi honey, welcome home"...we rewind to two weeks prior. Such a tease! Before we see Teresa's homecoming, we get to catch up on what her fellow 'Wives have been up to since Season 6 ended way back in 2014. First up is Melissa Gorga, who's becoming a modern woman by opening up a clothing boutique of her very own, Envy by Melissa Gorga. To turn the boutique into a reality, Melissa's found a business partner and invested all her own money - the only way Joe Gorga is helping is as a hired contractor to renovate the space. Teresa's brother isn't exactly fond of his wife's new business venture, complaining that it takes away from Melissa's job as a full-time wife and mother. However, Melissa is determined to make the two worlds work - she is woman, hear her roar!

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Next we get an update on Jacqueline Laurita, who's back after spending Season 6 as a last-minute, part-time Friend of the Housewives. Ever the vigilant mother, the OG's focus remains on her family - particularly youngest son Nicholas and his journey with autism. Nick has continued to improve since he was diagnosed back in Season 4, and has reached the point where, though he's not speaking conversationally, he can say phrases like "I love you" all the time. Jac's oldest daughter Ashlee has also moved back home to New Jersey temporarily, so the Lauritas are all under one roof for the holidays. 

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We're introduced to new 'Wives Dolores Catania and Siggy Flicker through Jacqueline as well. Dolores has been friends with the original Jersey 'Wives for decades. In fact, she goes back with Jacqueline, Teresa, Dina and Caroline more than 20 years, so she seems like a completely perfect fit. We've even seen glimpses of her in the early seasons of the show (like the gang's trip to the Catskills back in Season 3). She and Jacqueline arrive for lunch at a dimly-lit speakeasy and Siggy shows up with her entire head wrapped in bandages because...she just got a facelift! Talk about possibly the most iconic intro in Housewives history! I could not get over how hilarious the relationship Siggy is, whether she was sipping her lobster bisque through a straw or trying to figure out how to get in the restaurant's secret door via bookshelf. And she adds a new dynamic to the Jersey franchise as well - as an Israeli Jew born in a Jerusalem bomb shelter during the Six-Day War, The Sig is the first non-Italian Housewife in RHONJ history. All I know is I love these two ladies already.

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The Gorgas are planning to host the traditional Feast of Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve at their house with family. Since it will be the day after Teresa's release, the OG will have to get special permission from her probation officer to go celebrate with them per the rules of her home confinement. In the past year, things have been great between Melissa and her in-laws, so she's understandably a bit wary about her sister-in-law re-entering the picture - particularly considering that she hasn't spoken to or seen Teresa since the latter went away to Danbury. It's going to be a fragile situation, but everyone is hoping for the best when Teresa comes out, and want to just be one happy family again. 

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As Joe Giudice and the four girls prep the house for Teresa's return, the Lauritas are planning a holiday party at their house for all the 'Wives both past and present. However, Jacqueline is feeling more confused than festive ever since Teresa's attorney sent her a note from her former BFF from prison. Mockingly imitating Tre's voice, Jac reads the note aloud to Chris. While what Teresa wrote is light and friendly, Jacqueline can't help but throw in a few digs at her expense - even questioning Teresa's motivations behind sending the note in the first place. And yet, in the very next breath, Jacqueline is lamenting her broken friendship with the OG, and saying how much she wants their old dynamic back. Flashbacks from Seasons 4 and 5 roll across the screen as we're reminded of just how bad the pair's feud got at its peak as Jacqueline explains that they never quite recovered from the fallout, despite their attempts following the trip to the healing retreat in Arizona back in Season 5. At this point, can this friendship ever be salvaged? 

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The night of the party arrives, and while Teresa's attorney heads to Danbury to pick her up, Melissa and Joe head over to the celebration at Jacqueline's house. Along with Dolores and her family, the party is filled with plenty of familiar faces, including Teresa's cousins Kathy Wakile and Rosie Pierri (who are both official Friends of the Housewives this season). Still preoccupied by Teresa's note, Jacqueline pulls Melissa aside to question her about it. Keep in mind, the most amusing part of this exchange is that Tre sent Melissa a note too, but the latter didn't feel the need to let it consume her or even mention it to Jac...As Joe Gorga chats with Dolores's very attractive son Frankie, Jacqueline openly wonders what has changed for her to think that Teresa reaching out is sincere this time around. Melissa empathizes with the situation, but Jacqueline concludes on her own that she'll really know how she feels once she actually sees Teresa for the first time. All everyone can hope for is peace on Earth and good will toward Housewives...right?

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Making a fashionably late entrance, Siggy arrives with a "happy holidays everybody!" and thankfully, her face is finally showing signs of movement. After commiserating over the agony of facelifts, the subject of Teresa's impending release is brought up and Dolores explains via confessional that Tre was like every other girl who grew up in her neighborhood - with strict Italian parents and always following the rules, until one day she had to tell her mom and dad that she was going to prison for a year. How could something like this happen? As the party winds down, Jacqueline gathers everyone for one last toast, wishing everyone a merry Christmas and tearfully reminding the Gorgas to enjoy their holiday with Teresa finally home.

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Four hours later, the day of Teresa's freedom arrives and we're back where the episode began. After the long drive from Connecticut, avoiding eager paparazzi the whole way, Teresa is home. She walks through the door to be greeted by Joe before all four girls nearly tackle the mom they've only been able to visit once a week for the past year with screams of pure joy. As little Audriana jumps into Teresa's arms, I'm already sobbing and tears continue to stream down my face as Teresa breaks down at the homecoming she's waited eleven and a half months to experience. You guys. I can't even begin to imagine how this day felt for Teresa, Joe and especially those four little girls. I'm getting teary again just thinking about it. 

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The premiere ends with Teresa reveling in simply being back with her family. After enduring an endless nightmare since 2014, Teresa expresses in her confessional that she's finally made it. It's over. She explains that her naivete was really what landed her in prison, and she won't be making the same mistake twice. Teresa is back, and ready for a new chapter that will be better than ever. I couldn't be happier for her, or for the season ahead.

What did you think of the premiere? Was Teresa's homecoming as emotional for you as it was for me? Are you happy Jacqueline is back full-time? What's your first impression of Dolores and Siggy? Tell me in the comments below!

RHONJ: Teresa Checks In Finale - The Visit

Glenn Rowley

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Here we are - we've reached the end of the Giudice/Gorga family three-part special. For some reason, Bravo seems to have dropped the ball on these episodes on its website - the finale isn't even listed under "Episodes" on the RHONJ page. With Teresa away, the Giudice house tends to get a little more chaotic than usual - Audriana's screaming over clogged sinks and Milania's trying to feed the fish in the pond a diet of rocks and dog food. Joe points out that after a full day of hanging out with his kids, anyone would be ready to chug a bottle of wine at the end of the night. Case in point, when he comes out to the pond to discipline Milania for feeding rocks to the fish, she bolts for the four-wheeler and he manages to drop his phone in the muck-filled pond. Cue the hilarious stream of expletives from Joe's mouth as he changes into waders and jumps into the pond to find his iPhone. 

Joe and the Gorgas have decided to take all the kids up to his dad's house in the Catskills. Joe hasn't been upstate since his dad's passing, and the trip will fill weird with both him and Teresa not there. With his 42-month sentence looming over his head, it's important for Joe to make good memories with the girls and this trip should do just that. As Joe Gorga and Melissa pack, she brings up the fact that Joe will be visiting his sister in jail at the end of the week. Remember, they both applied to go see Teresa, but only Joe got approved. Melissa explains in her confessional that whatever the situation with the visiting list may be, she understands if Teresa only wants to see her immediate family in such a vulnerable situation and hopes that it will be comforting for Joe to see that she's really OK. Joe thinks Melissa will get approved to visit on the last day of Teresa's sentence. Teresa has to have a say in who gets approved and who doesn't...right?

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The families arrive at the Catskills and right away Milania gets her hands on a chainsaw. That girl. Honestly. While Joe Giudice barbecues, the Gorgas discuss how weird it is to be in the Catskills without Teresa. Melissa reminds Joe that it'll be important for him to be there for Teresa once Juicy starts his sentence. Joe insists that he's going to help take care of Teresa and the girls even if she doesn't want his help. Joe Giudice comes inside right as Teresa calls from prison. Immediately, her brother asks if he can come with Joe and the girls to visit her on Saturday and she seems excited at the prospect of seeing him. Once she makes sure the girls aren't in the room, Teresa regales her husband, Joe and Melissa with stories of handmade dildos and the legend that while you're in prison, you become revirginized. Immediately, Joe Gorga jokes that maybe he'll send Melissa to prison then. I'm almost not surprised by the TMI moments between these two families anymore. Almost. After Teresa's call, Melissa remarks that things are genuinely starting to feel like old times, and she hopes Teresa's prioritizing what's important to her during her time on the inside. What matters most is that they agree to be a family again. Cut to Joe Giudice admitting in his interview that Teresa doesn't really care about seeing Melissa while she's at Danbury. Ouch. 

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Rosie arrives to join the families and takes the kids on a buggy ride. While they're gone, Melissa and Joe Gorga have a serious chat about the families' futures. Joe can't wait to go see his sister, he hasn't slept in three days and still has three more to go. Melissa's just happy they're all with the kids and everyone is getting along. Joe says he hopes that when Teresa gets out, she comes back to "reality" and realizes what's most important in life. He sadly admits that there isn't much he misses about his sister from the past few years - he wants the old, pre-fame Tre back. 

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The next morning, Joe Giudice takes the girls to the small church his family built. Anyone having flashbacks to the Season 3 Catskills trip yet? Joe and the girls offer a prayer at the church and right as they say "amen," Teresa calls. It's a sign! When Joe tells her what they're doing, Teresa informs him that when she gets out, they'll be going to church every single Sunday; in fact, Joe should start taking the girls now. He reminds her that Sunday is visiting day at Danbury and she quickly comes up with a solution: 5:30 mass. Perfect! Teresa's learning a lot about God in prison - she always knew her Hail Marys and the Lord's Prayer, but she's learned that she can just talk to God about how she's feeling and that he'll listen. Teresa offers a prayer for her family over the phone, asking God to help keep the family together in this hard time and make the girls stronger. Most of all, she asks God to bring her back to her family as soon as possible. 

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Back in New Jersey, Joe bikes to a meeting with James Leonard, the attorney, at Lu Nello. Last time Joe was in the restaurant was Teresa's infamous table-flip during Season 1. Seven years ago, Lu Nello is where it all began, people! James explains that the Giudices are chipping away at the money they owe the government - every time the family makes money, a portion of it goes straight to paying their restitution, and the Giudices are in good standing when it comes to paying off their debts. James asks Joe what he's learned looking back on this ordeal and he says that it's to do things the right way. He's slowly climbing out of the hole he's dug and not looking back. 

Saturday arrives and Joe Guidice, Joe Gorga, the girls and Teresa's mom drive to Connecticut to visit Teresa. Preparing to see his sister for the first time in six months, Joe Gorga feels numb - he never thought he'd be doing something like this. Melissa asks him to send Teresa her love and let her know that she's praying for her every night. Whatever the list situation may be, Melissa is sad she can't see Teresa. Even after everything that's gone on, she wants her sister-in-law to open up to her more. On the drive, the girls recite all the rules the prison has about visiting: no phones and no shorts allowed. Gia explains that even though they visit every weekend, saying goodbye is the hardest part. Milania announces that they've made it and the screen goes black. 

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Obviously no cameras were allowed inside the prison. As the family reconvenes in the car after the visit, Joe Gorga explains that he and Teresa were raised not to cry, but seeing her in prison broke him. He felt helpless not being able to do anything for his sister, and sat there crying for the first hour of the visit. However, seeing Teresa gave him hope - no matter what's gone on for the past seven or eight years, they are there for each other as a family. In his final interview, Joe Giudice wishes that he could wake up and Teresa would just be home, but they continue to take things a day at a time. He's not even thinking about his sentence yet. When the time comes he'll go and get it done, and can't wait for this entire ordeal to be behind them for good. Teresa is expected to be released on December 23, 2015. Joe will begin his sentence in March of 2016.

RHONJ: Teresa Checks In Premiere - Tre of Life

Glenn Rowley

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Part 1 of Teresa Checks In, the three-part special documenting life inside the Giudice home while RHONJ star and matriarch Teresa Guidice serves her prison sentence, premiered last night and boy are we in for an emotional ride. Throughout the special, Teresa is heard but not seen through frequent phone calls from prison and the void is startlingly clear in the lives of her family. 

The episode starts on June 18, 2015, six months into Teresa's prison sentence. As he makes breakfast for the girls, Joe Giudice explains that it's a complicated day in their house, as it's 14-year-old Gia's eighth grade formal as well as the one year anniversary of Joe's father's passing. Days are hard with Teresa "away" (he hates to say the p-word), with Joe playing the role of both mom and dad to Gia, Gabriella, 10; Milania, 9 and Audriana, 5. Via confessional, Gia explains that her dad has really stepped up to the plate since Teresa started her sentence, but it's still nothing like having your mom there. Once the girls leave for school, Joe starts getting everything set up for the party to celebrate Gia's dance. However, Juicy is merely following Teresa's instructions - even from prison, she's still running the show and has everything picked out, from balloons and decorations to having her makeup artist and stylist help Gia get ready. 

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For some reason Teresa's lawyer, James Leonard, stops by and will apparently be a part of the special. For those who need a reminder, he explains that Teresa checked into Danbury Federal Correctional Institution (the real-life inspiration behind Orange is the New Black) on January 5, 2015 and it's anticipated she'll be released on December 23, 2015. While Joe describes the prison as a "low-budget spa," the attorney assures everyone watching that while Teresa is a high-profile inmate, she's not receiving any preferential treatment. (And also, they apparently watch Bravo in prison...)

Meanwhile, over at the Gorga house, Melissa wonders why no one told them about the formal. Joe Gorga brushes it off, though. With so much going on and everything the Giudices are going through, it likely wasn't an intentional diss. The Gorgas have been helping as much as Joe lets them with the girls, taking them to dinner, movies and bringing the kids over to their house, but Melissa still wishes she could do more. She explains that she knows she wouldn't be the first person the girls called if they needed something, but she wants to be there for them. With that in mind, she sends Gia an excited, heartfelt text wishing her luck at the dance. For her part, Gia says that her aunt and uncle are trying, but she's not quite comfortable yet about having a close relationship with Melissa. 

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As Gia's getting ready for the formal, Teresa calls from prison and the entire family gathers around the phone. Teresa sounds peppy and positive as she tells Gia how much she wishes she could be there, and the teenager struggles to hold back tears while talking to her mom. Teresa particularly doesn't want anyone getting upset around her aging parents, so Gia explains that she does her best to stay strong and not get emotional. That's so much pressure on a 14-year-old. In a heartbreaking moment, a tearful Gia asks Gabriella to tell Teresa that she hasn't put on her makeup yet because she doesn't want her mom to think she's crying. Teresa promises Gia that even though she can't be there for her dance, she's managed to send a surprise that's on its way.

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Interestingly, the younger girls are under the assumption that Tre is away "working." This is technically true, she's keeping a diary to write a book once she gets out, but at what point will the girls really understand what's going on? To commemorate Gia's big day, Teresa's stylist Alisa Maria gifts her with a heart-shaped pink sapphire and diamond necklace. Now, Gia will have her mom's heart next to hers wherever she goes. Teresa's gift also arrives at the house just before Gia takes off to the dance - a gorgeous box of roses. How Teresa managed to buy a box of roses from inside a Connecticut prison is beyond me, but she definitely has her ways. 

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In the midst of the party, Juicy Joe takes his brother and several of the grandkids out back to finish planting the tree at the memorial he's built for his father. It's a solemn moment for him as the family raises a glass to the memory of his best friend, who passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack in the middle of last year's court proceedings. After going inside, Joe meets Gia's date, instructing the poor kid that there will be no slow dancing or touching at the dance. With that, he sends a horrified Gia off to the formal with a hug and a kiss. Poor Gia is embarrassed by everything.

The next day, Joe is out working a construction job when Teresa's cousin Rosie stops by for a chat. Joe explains in his interview that, because of his conviction, he can no longer flip houses and isn't allowed to have any mortgages in his name but he's still doing what it takes to make ends meet and put food on the table. For her part, Rosie says she never would've expected to have anyone in her family go to prison, but points out that everyone makes mistakes. Apparently because of his felon status, Joe isn't allowed to visit Teresa as frequently as the girls are; when Teresa gets out and Joe starts his sentence, she'll have the same limitations on her visiting hours. It seems a strange oxymoron that the federal justice system wants to keep felons inside the prison while they're serving their sentences and doesn't want them around once they're back on the outside.

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A few days later, June 22 to be exact, is the day of Gia's 8th grade graduation. Melissa explains that these are the kinds of days Teresa lives for as a mom, and wishes she were able to be here for all the milestones the year has to bring. The Gorgas are invited to the party this time, and Gia thinks it's a big step for everyone to be there as one big happy family. In her confessional, Melissa points out that the Gorgas and Giudices have had some huge arguments over incredibly petty issues in the past (sprinkle cookies, anyone?), but that sometimes it takes a horrible situation like the one they're currently in to realize the importance of family. Never again will the Gorgas and Giudices go back to that terrible, dark place we saw in Seasons 3 and 4. Always the pragmatist, Juicy Joe agrees, saying he never understood the whole staying angry at your family forever thing. At the party, Gia gives a gracious speech thanking everyone for coming, saying that she knows how much her mom would love it if she were there. (At this point I had to explain to my roommate who'd wandered in that Teresa was merely in prison, not dead.)

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The episode ends with a private phone call between Joe and Teresa. Ever since Tre went in, Joe hasn't been able to sleep in their bed and has taken to crashing on the couch every night. Their conversation is both flirty and fun (Teresa watched Magic Mike at prison movie night and now wants Joe to get abs) and touchingly heartfelt as Joe talks about how much he wants to grow old with Teresa. As a family, they're dealing with this obstacle day by day, and it seems that they're becoming much closer as a couple as a result. As I watch Joe tell Teresa how he loves her more and more every day, it's clear that the Joe of the infamous Season 4 mystery call in Napa Valley is long gone, having been replaced by a much humbler, more caring and loving man. I guess it's true that there's a silver lining to everything in life.